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Flash Review 1, 10-16:
Bocca Channels Fosse
Star Hot, His "Modern Ballets" Not
By Susan Yung
Copyright 2000 Susan Yung
When discussing an art
as meticulous as ballet, it is difficult to overlook things. As
regards Julio Bocca/Ballet Argentino's mixed program seen Saturday
night at City Center, I speak not of the finicky details that can
compound in an underprepared company's performance; no, here the
technique was highly polished. I refer to larger problems -- in
this case, the horrendously archaic selection of "modern ballet"
chosen to showcase this technically excellent troupe. It was no
surprise that the saving grace was Bocca himself, bearing enough
talent to numb the memory of some weak terpsichorean efforts.
The program began with
the "Don Quixote Pas de Deux," attributed to A. Lojo after M. Petipa
to the Minkus score. This piece represented the most brittle of
evening's classical idioms, serving as little more than a display
of ballet chops. (Is that enough to justify its presence on the
bill?) Bocca relaxed into the technique, and presented us with a
neat, effortless sequence of double tours en l'air punctuated with
multiple turns. His partner, Luciana Paris, dealt commendably with
some difficult passages, bobbling occasionally, as in a simple balance
set up with Bocca's ardent help.
The duet "Adagietto,"
by Oscar Araiz to Mahler's Symphony No. 4, was performed in soft
shoes. Cecilia Figaredo was carried onstage by Christian Alessandria,
as she was through much of the piece. Totally symbiotic, they morphed,
linked, and interfaced in clever choreography that exploited the
strength of their ballet training with mellifluous phrasing. Figaredo
executed an interesting flourish to a lift by very slowly drawing
her pointed foot up her shin far past her knee.
A most puzzling piece
followed: "Suite Generis," choreographed by Albert Mendez to Handel
and Haydn. This trio embodied the worst of contemporary ballet (though
the date of creation was not provided; ditto for the rest of the
program, oddly), where the vocabulary is a vulgar interpretation
of the standard. Flexed feet and those linked somersaults that are
the trademarks of circus clowns top the list of culprits that, rather
than contributing to the evolution of the language of ballet, merely
degrade it. Sometimes it felt like I was watching a prissy Pilobolus
-- not a good sensation.
The ambitious "Sinfonia
Entrelazada" was purportedly based by choreographer Mauro Bigonzetti
on characters in Shakespeare's "Two Gentlemen of Verona," plus two
sonnets. Performed to Mozart, the overly-freighted work began and
ended with spoken text laid over the music. Dismayingly, more of
the flex-footed variety of ballet was presented, and though explored
to happier ends, emphasized six o'clock extensions far too often.
Bocca was not given excessive stage time, and yet he never failed
to draw the eye when on stage. The dramatic lighting, by Miguel
Cuartas, who lit the entire program, was quite powerful, particularly
in its sulfuric yellow incarnation.
The evening's highlight
was "Piazzolla Tango Vivo," choreographed by Ana Maria Stekelman
to eight songs performed live by the Fundacion Astor Piazzolla Quintet.
The bass-heavy renditions of the composer's familiar-yet-exotic
songs contrasted starkly with the rest of the program's recorded
classical music, immediately bringing the house to life. The authentic
roots of this piece were evident, from the harsh, raking, white
light to the women's nearly three inch patent leather shoes. The
songs set the tone for varying tempi and dynamics, the dance ranging
from a massing corps -- fascistic in its powerful appeal as well
as its threatening presence -- to the requisite couple in serious
ballroom competition mode.
Bocca, channeling Bob
Fosse's intensity, stage presence, and even his coiled torso, performed
a most remarkable solo (with table) that I swear left a smoldering
spot on the stage. The work ended with him tangoing with another
man; remarkably, Bocca managed to dance the part exuding equal parts
feminity and masculinity. It's not just his technical gifts that
make him exciting to watch; he is so at peace onstage that he could
be doing pretty much any style of dance and it almost wouldn't matter.
(Mercifully, it never felt like he was performing academic ballet
even when he was.) There was never the sense that he needed to be
liked by the audience, just that he understood his value to us,
and ours to him -- a mutually respectful agreement. If only the
program had been honed to better fit this technically accomplished
young company and its engaging director.
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